H, H and H

Hunters, Herders and Hamburgers takes its readers on an in depth investigation of the causes and reasons of domestication.  The dissection of domestication is proven difficult in this book as evidenced by the author addressing both sides of many debates on this topic as plausible.  In many instances regarding the classification and causes of domestication, Bulliet admits that some things cannot be known for certain.  After reading “Evolutionary History” I am not surprised by Bulliet’s struggles in defining such an encompassing topic.  I was impressed with his ability to divide the life span of domestication into separate stages, if not only for the convenience of organizing his thoughts.  In doing this he presented an interesting comparison on domesticity and post domesticity.
The longevity of sex and blood in our society while many other vices such as drugs and crime have abated, can be explained by the post domestic culture according to Bulliet.  As society has advanced the consumer has become shielded to the horrors of the harvesting of meat.  In post domestic society the animals we eat are no more than meat in a container.  Only the domestic culture (farmers and butchers) are troubled with the killing of animals.  Post domestic society has also been pacified in regards to experiencing and witnessing sex.  On a farm one can witness many acts of sex and even participate in sexual acts with animals.  Since post domestic society has been robbed of this firsthand experience of blood and sex, fantasy has taken its place.   I have problems with this stance as it seems to be a bit of a stretch.  I do not believe that violence against animals in order to gather meat is enough of a stimulant to completely separate domestic and post domestic culture.  I see little advantage on the battlefield of someone who has killed chickens over someone who has not.  Bulliet tries to make a point that the violence in domestic life can toughen a man for battle.  But can you truly say the killing of an livestock animal in order to feed a population prepares a man to kill another free willed human being whom is loved by others?   I do not deny the presence of blood in our society but I do not view it as an answer to the violence lost from the domestic lifestyle.  Bulliet claims that fantasy blood has to keep increasing in order to make up for the lack of real violence.  This is to say that real violence would be enough for a society who experiences it.  With the recent gun debate addressing fantasy violence in movies as a reason for recent acts of horror, I find it hard to believe fewer horrors would occur in a society completely based on real violence.   Fantasy violence also has it limits, a point at which it is so extreme that it loses credibility.
I found the differences in the thought towards animals in domestic and post domestic society very interesting.  The changes in film and cartoons like King Kong clearly show a change in attitudes towards animals.  Compassion from those who are distant from the killing and butchering of animals is growing.  If this compassion were absent as we evolved and demand grew, everything around us would become extinct.  The lion atop his food chain does not need question the killing of an endangered species.  As humans, we are atop every food chain and it is our responsibility to watch over the animals below us.  The imposition of our will upon animals is a heavily debated topic.  Things become even more muddled when if you consider humans as just another animal.  Are we bounding and taking advantage of our brothers and sisters?  Or are we truly meant to be dominant.  Regarding humans it is easy to believe that our whole is more than a sum of our parts.  Is the same true of animals?  From a personal standpoint and as exemplified by society it is clear that we think ourselves separate.  It is hard to decide whether or not civilized life is a blessing or a curse.  Are the benefits of one species worth the domination of all others?  In my opinion it seems that one species would always end up dominating.  I have read articles in the past that claim if it weren’t for the destruction of the dinosaurs, velociraptors would have ruled as humans due.  Survival of the fittest supports this.  The discussion of why were are the fittest and how we became the fittest rose more question than answers for me in this reading.  Are speech and society and product of evolution, or did we evolve more rapidly because of it.  As stated it can be proven that humans already hunted out of their class before speech was prevalent.
One last thing I found interesting about this reading was the relationship of domestication of animals and plants.  The video we watched previously clearly discussed the link between domestication of animals and plants.  Bulliet, however, sees less of a relationship and sites peoples that thrived on just the domestication of animals or just the domestication of plants.  I would agree more with this statement because it proves that just the act of domestication was significant and didn’t require the domestication of plants and animals to cause change.

Response to Bill


I think you are asking good questions and making good points.  I too pondered what certain species would be like if they were subject to the changes that domestication would undoubtedly cause.   Domestication would certainly preserve a species but the effects are completely unknown.  Like your silk worm example, we have no way of knowing how species will react.  Perhaps some species are not meant to be domesticated or maybe we just have to perfect our techniques of domestication.  Improper domestication may have caused silkworm moths to lose the ability to fly, not just domestication.  Your proposition with the tigers does seem to be a form of domestication.  Willingly or not, those in captivity will evolve in a different way than those who are not in captivity.  They may become smaller like fish have over time simply for the reason that they don’t have to be large skilled predator when humans are feeding them.   I agree that simply domesticating tigers provides little to no benefit to humans.   Saving tigers, to me, could provide some benefits.  Extinction in an area can cause imbalance.  Whatever the tigers where hunting may have a population explosion and send the ecosystem to unbalance.

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Response to Connor


You are right about the huge amount of information provided by these assignments.  I was very surprised by the number of animals that are domesticated as well.  Is this value so low because we are unable to domesticate other animals, or do they not provide enough benefit for the effort?  I understand why it is difficult to domesticate zebras in recent history due to their flighty attitude as a response to predators.  I wonder if there was an ideal time in which Zebras could have been domesticated, before they became flighty in response to predators.  I’m sure if cows had never been domesticated, attempting it now would be more difficult.

The importance and effects of evolution really impressed me as well.  I could not believe that evolution played a part in the Cold War with wheat production.  As you said it seems that all subjects are becoming intertwined, with evolution serving as one of the common denominators.  The struggle between the evolution of humans and the evolution of other species like pathogens surprised me as well.  It is strange to think that we still struggle and spend so much money and resources on something so small because of evolution.  I wonder if this will go on indefinably or if one can truly out evolve the other?  I see no end to evolution or the complete dominance of a species that can evolve such as pathogens.

In my post I wondered why less developed countries are still that way.  Part of the reason may be that under developed countries make it easier for developed countries to thrive (outsourcing and things like that).  I hope this is not the case and that resources can eventually be shared equally once we solve the problem of depleting pools of resources.

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Domestication and Evolution

As I delved into the assigned readings and video, I found that many questions I had formed while attaining to one would later be answered by another.  Relationships between assignments started becoming apparent so I tried to hone in on a central theme besides the obvious common topic of domestication.  I became increasingly interested in the relationship between domestication and evolution.  The two went hand in hand in more ways than I had thought previously.  Evolution, as mainly discussed in the Evolutionary History article, is the root of most that is and most that was.  It would seem that such a powerful force would be beyond harnessing but through domestication, humans have wielded the all powerful tool of evolution.  Each assignment demonstrates individually and as a collective group that humans have taken it upon themselves to play the part of Mother Nature.   With all of her complexities it is no surprise that problems have arose as a result of humans trying their hand at taking charge of the natural balance of all things.


Guns, Germs and Steel is based upon a seemingly easy question: why are some parts of the world more developed than other.  Through his investigations and research, Jarred Diamond comes up with a seemingly easy answer: geography.  It is almost frustrating to think that so much can depend simply on location.  Are humans simply not able to thrive in certain locations?  The journey to this conclusion is interesting and yet again displays the powers of domestication.  I enjoyed experiencing the progression of domestication in civilization and how it led to better crops and animals and thus larger population densities.  As domestication becomes more efficient, less effort is spent upon survival.  With more free time humans become innovative and thus evolve as a species.  I found this all interesting but I still could not get over my frustration and in this state I tried to force the possibility of domestication in New Guinea.  Are some regions meant to domesticate and reap its benefits while others are striped of even having this chance?  I agree that domestication is essential to evolution as demonstrated by the Middle Paleolithic population which became stagnant without it, but is it possible everywhere?  The video dismissed the possibility of effectively domesticating insects, a technique that would appear to benefit a place deprived of large game like New Guinea.  I thought this was an unfair assumption, just because it has not been attempted does not mean no benefit can be found in the practice.  This practice could be perfected across thousands of years just as the domestication of large animals has been in prosperous regions of the world.  The video also reflects on the advantages of having temperate animals available for domestication and uses the example of the flighty personality of a zebra to explain the lack of domestication of animals in Africa.  Both articles, however, admit that early domestication can be the cause of temperate animals.  The domestication of the wolf lead to modern day dogs, so it is possible that the temperament of zebras could mirror that of horses if they had been domesticated.


Despite these facts, if I were to submit to the notion that domestication is in fact impossible to achieve at a productive enough level  to cause prosperous civilizations anywhere in the world, then I would make the argument that there is an imbalance regarding domestication.  Furthermore inequality of civilizations as well as the negative effects of domestication proves that the relationship between evolution and domestication is not balanced.  I could make the argument that too much domestication occurs in parts of the world just as much as I can argue that not enough domestication occurs in other parts.  The article titled “Energy and Ecosystems” addresses the wasting of food and thus reveals the inefficiency of domestication.  Why does food go to waste in some parts of the world while it is barely available in others?  To this I propose that domestication is growing too fast for evolution.  Namely our population as a result of domestication is growing faster than we can evolve to be as efficient as possible.  Animals are becoming extinct, resource pools are shrinking and pathogens are becoming stronger.  There is an imbalance in nature, we are became kings with our reign over other species and thus began our battle with nature.  I believe the key to achieving efficiency and equality is to finding the true balance between domestication and evolution.

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